Development and growth happen at different rates for different children. Learning also happens at different rates and it can change throughout life due to a myriad of life and developmental circumstances. Teaching with the pressures of time, grades, and standards breathing down the children's necks, makes it difficult to transfer knowledge in a way that is multi-intelligence, experiential, and applicable. This is why Conexiones educational experiences and programs occur after school, in early childhood, and during the summer - and almost always in non-classrooms. The children learn through fun, games, creativity, and exploration. They must behave within certain codes of conduct, but in the fifteen years that we have been producing educational experiences, there has not been one single need for a suspension or expulsion. In addition, I believe most, if not all of, the children who have attended Conexiones have come away feeling successful through the intentional experience of many small victories.
The approach we have in place at Conexiones, where there is no room for failure, by intention and design, seems to have a great impact on our students self-confidence, levels of engagement and a willingness to learn what we are teaching. Parents were always telling us about stories of children relaying facts or insights they had learned through us even years later. Children's curiosity is boundless if they are allowed to search for the answers they seek in a non-pressured and lighthearted way. Educational activities that involve adventure, creativity, applied experiences, and games helps lighten the mood and engage all the senses, which, in turn, helps tremendously with learning and retention, feeding the positive loop of success and self-confidence.
Our students cannot fail, not only because they are not being graded, but because the structure of our Spanish immersion, outdoor, and creative education programs seek to build competencies from a very young age. For example, we believe it is impossible for a child to fail when they are allowed to lead the exploration of a new location, experiment with a new art medium in their own way, or turn their creative playtime skits into a real comedic theatrical or video presentation as the directors and writers too. All of that is also developing inner competencies that directly support their competence and "success" in the classroom. Thanks to these unpressured moments of learning, they may be a bit more more curious about their world, more comfortable with new situations, able to think creatively, and able to laugh at themselves and be lighthearted. Disclaimer: I am currently in the process of creating an evaluation plan of our most popular education program to see if we are actually accomplishing this.
There is always room for growth, so in order to enhance the "never too late to learn" structures at Conexiones, as the Director, I can focus more on bringing what we have learned about what works with our students to the training of our teachers. I have sensed some tension in our teachers in training, at times, and I would like them to feel more at ease and lighthearted, especially since their demeanor transfers to the children, who we are modeling for. Furthermore, I am convinced that if an experience is not pleasant, it hinders learning and the ability to assimilate information. I would start by reaching out to our teachers and asking them what they would like to see added - what ideas they have for making their training period more pleasant and effective.
Five things that I can do to make my school a place that increases learning opportunities is a bit complicated to answer at this time because we are not in session anymore while we transition to a nanny and childcare provider training center, but I will consider things I can do on the back-end for when we relaunch:
1 - Make sure my survey questions of my evaluation plan capture data to assess the building of competence, since it is one of our stated desired impacts.
2 - Reach out to the teachers I already trained and ask them what they would do differently or add to the training they received.
3 - Draft a module in our Conexiones educator training about "never too late to learn" and our philosophy on success/failure and the intentional way we build competence and always assume competence in our students.
4 - The Conexiones educator trainings I am creating include a parent manual component for the parents of the students experiencing our early childhood programs. I can draft a chapter about our philosophy of success/failure, how we measure growth and success and our intentional approach to building competencies that support classroom learning.
5 - I loved the idea of Benjamin Zander in our reading of Fisher, Frey and Pumpian about how he told all the students they were they are A students and had them write a note of how they became an A student so as to set high expectations and create a mindset of achievement. I will incorporate this in the introduction of the Conexiones educator training programs.